Maria Phillips' Bellevue Arts Museum exhibition interrogates our relationship with plastic

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Maria Phillips' Bellevue Arts Museum exhibition interrogates our relationship with plastic
Maria Phillips, Feedback Cycle - India #5 (detail), 2019. Strapping, plastic piece, plastic netting, metallic fabric, plastic cord, plastic wheel. Found in Mysore and Tamil Nadu, India. Photo: Emilie Smith.

BELLEVUE, WA.- Seattle artist Maria Phillips is taking plastic to task in a new exhibition at Bellevue Arts Museum. Hidden in Plain Sight is Phillips’ first solo museum exhibition and features works created using recycled materials and single-use consumer goods. Phillips’ exhibition follows her award-winning work in BAM Biennial 2016: Metalmorphosis.

Hidden in Plain Sight examines our culture’s relationship to plastic in two parts. The first features a series of jewelry pieces and small-scale works that serve as evidence of our impact on the environment, placing non-recyclable plastics somewhere between artifacts and art objects. These are accompanied by a video installation titled PlasticWater. The second half of the exhibition confronts viewers with a large-scale, immersive installation created from the ubiquitous and overlooked plastics that flow in and out of daily life.

Both gallery spaces feature works sourced from non-recyclable plastics and single-use items generated by Phillips and her family over the course of nine months, with the addition of materials recovered from beaches in India, Iceland, Canada, and the US. This careful cataloging of our relationship with consumer items and plastics confirms the inescapable pervasiveness of this material, hidden in plain sight.

Phillips found inspiration for the exhibition during a five-month residency at the Recology Cleanscapes’ material recovery facility in Seattle. Throughout her residency, Phillips intercepted items that would otherwise have gone to the landfill and created works that call attention to their fate, sheer quantity, and initial purpose.

By focusing on single-use items and objects that have little or no repurposing value, Phillips questions their very necessity. These objects—to-go items, plastic wrap, snack bags, and the never ending packaging materials—surround us like silent ticking bombs, quiet reminders of the excesses of consumer society and the urgent need for a global response to the ecological crisis our societies face.

Maria Phillips is an artist and educator based in Seattle, Washington. Born in St. Louis, MO, Maria received her BA from Loyola University in New Orleans and her MFA from the University of Washington in Seattle. Her work is included in the collections of the Museum of Art and Design New York, the Renwick Gallery - Smithsonian American Art Museum, Tacoma Art Museum, Rotassa Foundation, and numerous private collections. In 2016, she was awarded the John and Joyce Price Award of Excellence from Bellevue Arts Museum and invited to return for a solo exhibition.

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